I’ve always been fascinated by the early maps of North America; the history of the continent is clear in the signs and symbols. You can see the colonizers march slowly across a wild continent and read their fear of both the indigenous population and the unknown landscape. The colonized and the colonizer and the ramifications therein is a common story throughout history, and it’s a story that’s been told many times in fantasy literature. It’d make sense there would be a desire for maps that can help tell those stories.
With that in mind, I’d like to introduce my newest free brush set: Aubers. The set comes from Carte d’une partie de l’Amerique Septentrionale which shows the journey of François Pagès a French naval officer who accompanied the Spanish Governor of Texas on a lengthy exploration through Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico in 1767. The map was engraved by J.B.L. Aubers under the direction of Robert Bernard in 1782. It’s particularly interesting because it details the settlements of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and the American Southwest. You can also see the reach of Catholic missionaries during the late 18th-century. It’s a momentary glimpse of Nueva España frozen in time.
Stylistically it’s unique. Aubers has an interesting way of rendering flora and his landforms have a style that sets his work apart from other engravers. Within this set, you can also observe a transition happening in cartography. Aubers blends the detailed pictographic style common in early 18th-century work with newer and cleaner icons that would dominate the 1800s. Instead of rendering small pictograms we see a transition to cleaner and simpler signs used for larger settlements (circle with the dot) and forts (simple squares.) It’s an interesting blend and a harbinger of something that would eventually standardize over the next century.
Inside Aubers you’ll find over four hundred brushes, including:
- 15 Major Cities
- 15 Large Towns
- 10 Small Towns
- 50 Habitations (These normally used to mark farms or tiny villages)
- 4 Archdioceses
- 2 Dioceses
- 20 Forts
- 10 Missions
- 25 Native Villages
- 3 Native Villages with Missionaries
- 4 Port Indicators
- 100 Scrub Trees
- 75 Scrub Land
- 50 Mountains
- 40 Mountain Ranges
- 3 Volcanos!
- 2 Map Cartouches
- 10 Numbers (0-9)
- 2 Odd Brushes that I couldn’t really categorize
The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (works in GIMP as well) and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support ABR brush files. You can see the transparent PNG here. (They’ll come up black if viewed in Chrome, but they’re all there.)
As with all of my brush sets, Aubers is free for any use and is distributed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that means you can freely use it in commercial work and distribute adaptations. All I did was convert it to brushes, Aubers, Bernard and François Pagès did all the heavy lifting—so giving them credit would be fantastic, but it’s absolutely not necessary.
💸 Supporting This Work
If you like the Aubers brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and would like to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my urban fantasy novels for yourself or a friend. (The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook.)
You can find them in stores and online, learn more about the series at bellforgingcycle.com.
And what’s a pulpy urban fantasy novel without a map? When my 2nd book in the series launched I made a map detailing the world, you can check it out here.
🗺 More Map Brushes
L’Isle isn’t the only brush set I’ve released. Below are links to other free brush sets with a wide variety of styles all free and all open for personal or commercial use, you should be able to find something that works for your project.
A departure from the norm, this set is based on the Plan Batalii map which was included in a special edition of The First Atlas of Russia in 1745. A detailed view of a battle during the Russo-Turkish War of 1735–1739. Canon! Units! Battles! Perfect to map out the combat scenarios in your fantasy stories.
A 17th Century brush set pulled from the 1680 Alta Lombardia map of Northern Italy, engraved by Georgio Widman for Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi’s atlas published in 1692. If you like mountains and mountain ranges this is the set for you.
A 18th Century brush set based on the work of Gabriel Walser with a focus on small farms and ruins and a solid set of mountain and hills. You can see how far Vignola’s style persisted as well.
A sketchy style brush set I drew myself that focuses on unique hills and mountains and personal customizability. My attempt at trying to channel the sort of map a barkeep would draw for a band of hearty adventurers.
Named after Austrian topographer Johann Georg Lehmann creator of the Lehmann hatching system in 1799, this is a path-focused brush set designed for Adobe Illustrator captures the hand-drawn style unique 19th Century hachure style mountains.
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